My wife and I were recently watching an episode of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. It started off as ‘watching one of her shows together’, but I quite enjoy watching the various versions of the show.
The Real Housewives concept has created multiple reality television stars, using a very simple formula: They find a group of ladies from upper class neighbourhoods, and simply follow them around with cameras. Often the ladies have some connection to each other (either they are related or are either friends or enemies off camera).
The ladies go on the show because they want camera time, and while most of them appear to have more dollars than sense, they all understand that drama leads to air time. The show centres around social gatherings. The ladies invite each other to their homes, to their charity events, to their businesses or anything else they want filmed for the international audience the show enjoys. Alcohol has a strange way of being present at most of these events, and maybe this is fuels some of the on screen drama.
The beauty of the show, is that the cast have the chance to become reality stars, rather than reality contestants. There is no competition, and no prize for winning. Nobody gets eliminated, and in most cases, housewives are on the show for more than one season. It doesn’t matter how much weight they lose, or how well they sing karaoke, they get to come back week after week, they don’t even have to impress Donald Trump.
The ‘let the cameras follow you’ format of the show, has empowered many cast members to leverage off their reality stardom. Thanks to the Housewife cameras, the cast have done everything from launch singing careers, to show off their brand new trampoline centre. I now know that my toaster oven has more uses than fanciest of Swiss Army Knives.
Air time is a very powerful marketing tool. So powerful, that last Christmas, I was able to buy my wife a ‘Skinny Girl Margarita’, while holidaying in Mandurah Australia. That's 11,650 miles away from New York Looking for a new set of high heels? Have you considered the Maloof Hoof?
The Real Housewives is a powerful promotional tool. Looking to buy or sell property in Beverley Hills, call Mauricio (unless you already called Josh Flagg ). If I host a function in New Jersey, it’s going to be at the Brownstone House. Next time I visit L.A, you know I want to stop by SUR for a meal with a side order of staff drama.
Bravo has also been quick to leverage off the stardom they have created with multiple spin offs. My favourite being: Vanderpump Rules, let’s face it, Lisa Vanderpump was born to be on tv. She is elegant, funny, and not afraid to speak her mind, what’s not to love?
Every season from every city has had their share of product placement. The most unusual product placement I have seen, was on the current season of the New Jersey show. Joe Gorga proudly took his wife (and the cameras) to see their new business venture. If we were to look at this as a marketing campaign, it was a failure:
- All we saw was a plain blue truck, there was no mention of the business name, or how to contact them. It’s all well and good that we know you have spent millions on a blue truck, but at least wear a hat with your new business name on it or something. How are we supposed to use your service if we don’t know how to find it?
- What has he actually invested in? From what we saw, it appears that the service is ‘document destruction’. The blue van comes along, takes your sensitive paperwork, and incinerates it. Essentially they are burning papers so nobody will ever know they existed. Joe tells the camera that he has ‘invested millions in this business’. Joe, I have a brick barbeque pit in my back yard, I was going to tear it down to make more garden space for the kids, but if you give me just $1Million, I’ll let you burn paper in it.
Watching this segment left me so confused, that I took the internet in search of answers. As always Bravo did not let me down, their website hosts a blog written by Melissa herself. I did not get any clear answers from reading Melissa’s blog, but here is my take from the information:
- The first thing I read was ‘The Gorgas are going green!’ – How is burning paper green? Isn’t burning things what caused all these environmental issues in the first place? You could put it in a blender with some water. The ‘sensitive information’ would be transformed into an unrecognizable blended pulp. The pulp can then be recycled.
- She went on to refer to it as an investment in ‘cutting-edge technology’. Not sure where the cutting edge is when it comes to burning paper. I’m not saying that Joe Gorga is a caveman, but they are saying ‘cutting-edge’ and I am seeing : Fire: - Man’s first discovery!
· Melissa tells us that the truck was ‘only a small part of the overall business’. According to her, the venture involves ‘plasma technology’ and turning garbage to energy and reducing the need for land fill.
After discussing this blog with everyone at TFG, we are assuming that the Gorgas have invested in a plasma gasification business. This would be a green investment, and is related to waste management. On screen, Joe pulled out a handful of what looks to be ash, which he refers to as ‘millions of dollars’.
After some brief research on plasma gasification, it is plausible, that what we saw, was not ordinary ash. The process of turning garbage to clean energy involves applying extreme heat in a highly controlled and contained environment. This turns the solids to dust, but the process is not combustion, so technically the paper has not been burned.
Here at TFG, we think the Gorgas have every right to be proud, clean tech is a noble investment. We’d love to live in a world where clean energy is a viable replacement for fossil fuels. We have many sources of clean energy, but they can’t seem to compete with coal when it comes to cost of production.
If, as Melissa implies, the Gorgas are investing in Plasma gasification then the operation would involve a lot more than a fleet of blue trucks. It would have a substantial processing plant, and would accept all sorts of garbage, not just ‘sensitive documents’.
The show would be a great way to raise publicity for their operation and bring awareness to plasma gasification. The technology is interesting, a tour of the plant would make better viewing than a plain blue truck.
One theory is that the truck we saw was located a car dealership. It is alleged that the Gorgas were given a free used Mercedes in exchange for filming the scene at the yard. If this is true, then the owner of the car yard must be feeling a little disappointed. The scene was conveniently shot with a lot of close up camera angles ensuring that the viewers did not see the name of the car yard, or anything other than the truck. There was also no mention of a car yard, you'd think Melissa would ask why they were going to a car yard. If the scene was filmed at a car yard, then Bravo obviously decided to edit the scene so that the yard was not on the show.
The free car theory is pure gossip, but in the world of the Real Housewives, gossip is good. A juicy story makes us pay attention and builds star power. The housewives thrive on gossip, the juicier, the better. If it offends another cast member and causes conflict, even better.
At this stage we are not sure what the Gorgas have invested in. Hopefully we will see more of this business with better explanations in future episodes. Based on what we have seen on our tv screens, they have spent millions to offer a service which, can be offered by anyone who has a box of matches, and a safe place to burn paper.
Shameless promotions are part of what make the Real Housewives great. Here at TFG, we are wondering if advertising companies will catch on and offer housewives official sponsorship deals. As it becomes easier and easier for us to skip the commercials, advertisers are going to need to find new ways to promote products to us. Reality TV specially shows depicting every day life, are ideal.
Any product can essentially be promoted on the show simply by a housewife either endorsing it, or filming themselves using it. Our only advice to any companies considering this, is to include Bravo in the deal, or risk having the products creatively edited out.